What's your problem?

SHOULD I MOVE THE BUSINESS OUT OF TOWN? I run a small business in the heart of London, but can no longer afford the rent.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

We will have to give up the vibrant surroundings and relocate to the suburbs. The employees are unhappy at the decision and some are thinking of leaving. The office must move, but I can't afford to find and train new staff. How do I broach the topic and keep them all on board?

A: I strongly suspect that, at some level of consciousness, you've decided not to confront your real problem. I've had to make a key assumption in coming to this conclusion, so I'll tell you what it is.

I'm assuming that you've been based in the heart of London up till now not just to keep your staff happy but because that's where your customers like you to be. If I'm right, how will a move to the suburbs affect not just your costs but your revenue?

What I think I smell here is a case of wishful thinking on your part Rather than face up to the fact that you've got to improve your income - either by putting on more business or by charging more for what you provide - you've chosen to believe that your problem is all about your cost base.

If I'm right, any minute now you'll have started on a dismal downward spiral that will leave you forever stranded in the suburbs, anxiously trying to service increasingly disenchanted customers with increasingly demotivated staff. Unless you can be absolutely certain of at least maintaining your income, any savings you make on rent will soon count for nothing.

Before you embark on this irreversible course of action, make sure you've explored every opportunity to build your business. If you come to the conclusion that this is impossible, you may also come to feel that any attempt to persuade your staff to stay with you might not be in their best interests. I know the alternative must be desperately unappealing, but please entertain it.

Jeremy Bullmore's responses to work dilemmas in MT are collected in his new book Another Bad Day at the Office? (Penguin, pounds 5.99)

Please address your problems to Jeremy Bullmore at: Management Today, 174 Hammersmith Road, London W6 7JP. Or e-mail: management.today@haynet.com Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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